March 10, 2014
For everybody else
Even if last-month’s devaluation (itself a significant U-turn at the time) and its sequel remains the centre of attention, the purge in the “Soccer for Everybody” presentation is perhaps an even more striking indication of changing times. Kirchnerism’s often justified reputation for ideological intransigence nevertheless sometimes cloaks a capacity to learn from experience and to re-invent itself in a manner fully in keeping with the Peronist tradition it seeks to surmount. Especially in the last four or five years pro-government propaganda has escalated almost to the point of self-parody and may well have been counter-productive in last year’s voting (as the results would certainly indicate) — the changes in “Soccer for Everybody” would suggest that Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich at least has taken this on board and is acting in consequence. As a result the political overdrive of previous propaganda could go to the other extreme of media trivialization under the auspices of Marcelo Tinelli although on the television screen itself the national passion of soccer will be the common denominator between the two styles.
Yet there is more to this issue than what style of commentary might better suit the public taste. Even if there is no green light as yet for private-sector advertising, the prospect of fiscal savings seems to be a powerful motive for Capitanich and other advocates of this change — that such a natural money-spinner as soccer should cost the Treasury 1.5 billion pesos last year is a folly Argentina can no longer afford in these times of rising fiscal deficits and shrinking Central Bank reserves. Then there is the issue of the participation in the new format of Torneos y Competencias with its longstanding links with the Clarín Group — should this be seen as a government setback at the hands of a media group at loggerheads with the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration almost throughout or is this in line with the smoother relationship between the two ever since last October’s Supreme Court ruling finally upholding the Broadcasting Media Law of 2009? Last but not least, there is the issue of who ends up with the online betting, which could be the most financially interesting aspect of them all.
The chances of this new approach improving the public mood would be hugely improved if the World Cup in less than 19 weeks goes Argentina’s way thanks to the magic of Lionel Messi & Co — that would be a real propaganda success. But even if not, never underestimate the power of soccer to penetrate and reveal the soul of Argentina.